Oprah Winfrey Gets Stake in Discovery as Company Takes 95 Percent of OWN

Oprah Winfrey
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Oprah Winfrey

The conglomerate, led by David Zaslav, now holds 95 percent of OWN, with Winfrey opting to receive a $35 million-plus stake.

Oprah Winfrey has taken a stake of $35 million-plus in Discovery Inc. as part of a deal that boosts the factual content giant's holding in OWN, a joint venture with Winfrey's Harpo, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Discovery and Harpo's original deal to form OWN in 2008 included options for Harpo to sell its stake to the content company, and Discovery has been increasing its OWN stake over time. According to Discovery's 2008 annual report, Winfrey had a put agreement that would require Discovery to buy out a portion or all of her stake in OWN that was set to expire at the end of this year.

The new deal increases Discovery's ownership in OWN from 73 percent to 95 percent, according to a source familiar with the situation. That person said Winfrey elected to swap most of Harpo’s interest in OWN for voting Series A shares in Discovery.

Winfrey continues to serve as CEO and chief creative officer of OWN, though she now owns only a 5 percent stake in it. A rep for Harpo and OWN declined to comment.

The news emerged as Discovery, in a Tuesday securities filing, mentioned that Harpo now owned about 1.34 million shares of Discovery, less than 1 percent of the firm's Class A common stock, and was registering 670,477 of them for possible sale. "Oprah Winfrey has voting and dispositive power over the shares of Series A Common Stock owned by Harpo," of which she is the sole shareholder, it said in a regulatory filing. It added that Harpo does not have to sell all, or even any, of the shares. It is understood that share sales would cover the tax cost of the deal.

At Monday's Discovery stock closing price of $27.37, the 1.34 million shares were worth around $36.7 million.

In 2017, Discovery paid $70 million to acquire an additional 24.5 percent stake in OWN to boost it to 73 percent, but that agreement also took into account net debt at the network, the parties said at the time. Winfrey back then agreed to continue in her role as OWN CEO, with her exclusivity commitment to the network extended through 2025.

OWN had been Winfrey's primary home on television ever since it launched in 2011. However, in June 2018, Apple and Winfrey unveiled a multiyear content partnership that would see Winfrey host and produce TV shows, films and specials for the tech giant's streaming service Apple TV+ in addition to her work for the cable channel.

The news of Discovery's OWN buyout comes as the company is set to launch an international streaming service of its own, Discovery+, in January. That service will compete directly with Apple TV+, though it leans on unscripted programming such as food, home and reality content.